This blog began in 2007, focusing on anthrax vaccine, and later expanded to other public health and political issues. The blog links to media reports, medical literature, official documents and other materials.
WASHINGTON—A federal judge on Monday ruled against the National Security Agency's collection of phone records, saying the program "almost certainly does violate" the Constitution.
However, the ruling will have little immediate effect and faces a lengthy future of court proceedings.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who was nominated to the Washington, D.C., bench by former President George W. Bush, issued a 68-page ruling in favor of Larry Klayman, a conservative activist and lawyer.
Mr. Klayman filed suit in June, claiming that the program violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search.
On a daily basis, the NSA collects records of nearly every call made in the U.S. and enters them into a database in order to search for possible contacts among terrorism suspects. The scope of the program was revealed when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents describing the program this spring.
The ruling came on Mr. Klayman's request for an injunction barring the government from collecting any telephone records associated with Mr. Klayman and another plaintiff. In the ruling, Judge Leon ordered the government to destroy any such records it currently has.
However, "in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues,'' the judge suspended his own order while the government pursues an expected appeal.
In issuing his ruling, the judge disagreed with a central premise of the program's defenders—that a 1979 Supreme Court ruling allowing investigators to look at the phone records of a Maryland robbery suspect gave them the authority to collect phone records of nearly every American.
Judge Leon ruled that the technology of both phones and phone surveillance has changed so much in the intervening years that the Smith decision is of little value in assessing the NSA program.
"The almost-Orwellian technology that enables the government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979,'' the judge wrote, adding: "I believe that bulk telephony metadata collection and analysis almost certainly does violate a reasonable expectation of privacy.''
A spokesman for the Justice Department said lawyers there were reviewing the decision and declined to comment further.
The ruling gives more ammunition to those in Congress who have argued for an overhaul of the laws authorizing government surveillance.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) welcomed the ruling, saying: "Americans deserve an open and transparent debate about the constitutionality, efficacy, and appropriateness of the government's dragnet collection programs.''
The phone surveillance program has been attacked by legal activists on both the right and the left. A similar case is pending in federal court in New York, after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in the wake of the Snowden revelations. The judge in that case has yet to make a decision.
Judge Leon's decision uses strong language, and even occasional exclamation points, to question the candor of the government lawyers who argued against Mr. Klayman and to knock down various arguments made on behalf of the phone surveillance program—particularly the legal basis of the 1979 decision.
"It's one thing to say that people expect phone companies to occasionally provide information to law enforcement; it is quite another to suggest that our citizens expect all phone companies to operate what is effectively a joint intelligence-gathering operation with the government,'' the judge wrote.
He added: "There is the very real prospect that the program will go on for as long as America is combating terrorism, which realistically could be forever!''
Meryl, enjoying spotting animals in the Thai jungle
Visiting tigers (inside the cages) in Chiang Mai
I think I'm in the wrong cage...
Night shot of a wild elephant
Canoodling at Elephant Nature Camp, Thailand
5 and 7 month olds playing
Mum and her 5 month old infant
Dusky Langur, curious about us humans in his territory
Self-satisfied Dusky Langur, after he relieved himself on me
Rhesus macaque: "I need three hands for this meal"
After swimming with dolphins at Key Largo, they checked me out at the edge of the pool
Visiting a Bhutanese Dzong, the regional seat of both government and religion (and a fort for good measure)
Why am I blogging?
Because life is meant to be lived! The left side of this blog has photos of some peak experiences. And the right side contains information about which I am passionate.
Too many peoples' lives are characterized by lack of authenticity, and fear of acknowledging and expressing their true nature. Employees cannot say what they think at work, and in the corporate system we must squish ourselves into square holes when we are round pegs. We thus lose touch with our souls, becoming cogs in a soulless, profit-driven machine.
The culture of political correctness has meant, in medicine, that we ignore how the foundations of our science are being undermined by commercialism. Clinical data generated or presented by the manufacturers of drugs, vaccines and devices cannot be trusted: there are hundreds of studies proving this. But this fraudulent information continues to be the only data informing the approval and use of vaccines, drugs and devices.
Unless scrupulous ethical conduct is demanded of physicians and biological scientists, our lack of meaningful standards will carry the medical-pharmaceutical system down the path of increasing irrelevance.
Medicine and its tools need to be affordable. The current medical-industrial milieu, characterized by contempt for science, countless ways for insiders to achieve wealth due to failure of good governance, and regulatory agency-to-industry revolving doors, has ushered in stratospheric pricing... further kicking us down that path to irrelevance.
Why is our new health care plan a giveaway to health industries instead of to health consumers? Wha won't it cover all Americans? Why was the "public option" never an option for the Obama administration?
So many of our leaders carry a heavy burden of mendacity and avarice. If they instead got in touch with their own souls (perhaps by exposure to the natural world), or made their decisions by maximizing the amount of good that results, our leaders might find real meaning and value in their lives.
Until that happens, the only way to straighten out the current mess is to demand accountability and impose penalties on unethical/dishonest leaders. Both political parties enjoy bounteous hors d'oeuvres from Pharma's table, making it unlikely the existing political "process" will provide relief--as we've seen in the demoralizing healthcare reform drama.
Until then, I'll continue to "call it as I see it" in this blog -- working and living the way life should be, in rural Maine, far from the centers of power.
Ellen Byrne has created several designs encapsulating aspects of the FBI's ridiculous case against Bruce Ivins. They can be purchased on T-shirts and coffee mugs. All proceeds will be donated to the the Frederick County chapter of the American Red Cross, a favored charity of Dr. Bruce Ivins.